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Meeting on the Policy Framework on Intelligence in UN Peacekeeping Operations

Tomorrow (27 July), the Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations, under the chairmanship of Ambassador Fodé Seck (Senegal), will hold a meeting on the policy framework for intelligence in UN peacekeeping operations. Renata Dwan, chief of the Policy and Best Practices Service of the Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support, and Ambassador Omar Hilale (Morocco), are expected to brief Council members.

The meeting is expected to contribute to the Secretariat’s efforts to develop a policy framework on intelligence in UN peacekeeping operations. A concept note circulated ahead of the meeting highlights how “better and more systematic intelligence gathering, management and analysis practices” can help mitigate the risks associated with the direct targeting of peacekeepers deployed in dangerous operating environments. Council members and member states are expected to provide feedback during the meeting on some of the proposals being discussed by the Secretariat, including on issues where there is no agreement among member states. Discussion with member states is expected to continue in different fora, including the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations (C34).

The concept note presents illustrations of different peacekeeping operations where intelligence plays a key role, both in ensuring the safety and security of peacekeepers and in implementing missions’ mandates. Intelligence, in one form or another, contributes to the protection of civilians in South Sudan, enables the fulfillment of the offensive mandate of the mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and provides for the safety and security of peacekeepers in Darfur. In the case of Mali, the military leadership of the mission has for a long time advocated the importance of improving intelligence and situational awareness so as to ensure informed decision-making in a context with asymmetric threats. In this context, the All Source Information Fusion Unit (ASIFU) established within the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) has given the mission an unprecedented capacity to gather and process actionable information on threats to civilians and UN personnel. All these cases, together with a lessons learned exercise on MINUSMA conducted in late 2015, have informed the Secretariat in developing a policy framework that stresses the importance of integrating all intelligence capabilities into the mission’s structure, providing for clear divisions of labour and coordination across the mission’s uniformed and civilian components, and striking the balance between information security and allowing for an inclusive approach to information sharing within the mission.

The concept note identifies a number of issues that have been raised since the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous briefed the C34 on his intention to develop a policy framework for intelligence in peacekeeping. These include the legality of procedures to collect information, the potential for surveillance capabilities to violate the sovereignty of bordering member states, and the security and confidential treatment of information collected as well as its ownership. For every issue that the concept note identifies, measures are proposed to address concerns by member states and mitigate the possible reservations that some might have. Even though the concept note does not address explicitly the issues that host states might have regarding the use of intelligence capabilities by peacekeeping operations, this might be raised tomorrow, especially given the increasing hostility of several host governments towards peacekeeping operations.

Members are likely to have differing views about the role of intelligence in different missions. This was clearly illustrated recently during discussions on the draft resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African (MINUSCA). Although resolution 2295, adopted on 29 June, which renewed MINUSMA’s mandate, was clear in its reference to intelligence, there was opposition by at least one Council member to mentioning the need to improve intelligence capacities in resolution 2301 on MINUSCA which was adopted today. As a result the resolution does not include intelligence and surveillance activities, and instead refers to the need to enhance MINUSCA’s capabilities for gathering “timely, reliable and actionable information on threats to civilians and the analytical tools to use it”.

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